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Airman nets $10,000 through IDEA program

by Staff Sgt. Ryan Whitney
31st Fighter Wing Public Affairs

8/20/2012 - AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy (AFNS) -- The Air Force presented a check for $10,000 to a 31st Maintenance Squadron Airman recently for creating a new process that used less manpower and resources without sacrificing quality.

Tech. Sgt. Jesse Swiderek, 31st MXS aircraft metals technology craftsmen, received the money as part of the Innovative Development through Employee Awareness program, which provides an incentive for members to submit ideas that streamline processes and increase productivity and efficiency in the workplace.

Swiderek identified a redundant and excessive repair process for aircraft fuel tanks here. This change not only saved the Air Force more than $200,000 per year, but also increased the lifespan of these tanks.

"Today, we are presenting Sergeant Swiderek this check for a simple idea: work less," said Col. Fredrick Plaumann, 31st Maintenance Group commander. "It might have been a little more complicated than that, but Sergeant Swiderek did the legwork and research to identify a better way of doing business that greatly benefited the Air Force."

Originally, the repair process called for an inspection of the under-wing fuel tanks, and when a crack was found on one of the interior section support rings, they were welded and then re-inspected every 60 days. During the re-inspection, if other cracks were found, then the entire section had to be replaced, as each section was only authorized one weld repair. These individual sections cost as much as the entire tank, and there were costs associated with the time and manpower needed to re-inspect each tank every 60 days.

"Because the support rings did not have any load-bearing properties, I worked with our item manager to see if we could do these inspections annually instead of the 60-day mark," said Swiderek. "I was initially just looking to lower the amount of redundant work on a part that didn't matter that much, but after talking to the manpower office, they helped me look at the process in a different way that ended up saving the Air Force more money and manpower."

After calculating the manpower of all the shops involved and the resources needed to repair the tank sections, the Aviano IDEA program managers determined Swiderek's suggestions would save his unit more than $200,000 annually.

"Most people have a part of their job that they think could be done a better way, but because of regulations and technical orders, they don't know how to go about getting the process changed. That's where we come in," said Staff Sgt. Maurice Monroe, 31st Force Support Squadron IDEA Program manager. "When you bring us your idea, we will work with you to fine tune your submission so we can save the Air Force as much as possible, and then walk you through the submission process every step of the way."

According to Monroe, anyone who has a better way of doing business can submit a suggestion through the IDEA program. Then, depending on whether the benefits of the submission are tangible or intangible and inside or outside the member's area of responsibility, the submitter is eligible for up to $10,000 based on the amount of money the initiative will save the Air Force in the first year.

"The IDEA program was created to make sure we are doing everything as efficiently as possible, and it rewards those who bring new and fresh ideas to light," said Monroe. "Those on the frontline performing the jobs are the ones who have the ideas and know the better ways of conducting business, but those ideas must be brought forward to make the Air Force a more capable, efficient machine."

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